An almost 100-year-old building in downtown’s Arts District designed by prolific L.A. architect John Parkinson and a neighboring brick structure were acquired this month for $20 million by DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, said sources familiar with the deal.

Originally built for the Ben-Hur coffee and spice factory in 1918, the five-story property at 800 Traction Ave. was converted into artist-in-residence lofts in the 1980s. The two-story brick building next door at 810 Traction, which is also an industrial building transformed into artist lofts, was also part of the deal, which closed May 9. Taken together, the buildings have 15 units and ground-floor commercial space spanning 65,500 square feet.

Rollins & Rollins, a downtown real estate investor, purchased the properties in 1978 as artists began settling in the area’s neglected industrial buildings, said CBRE’s John Hillman, who represented Rollins in the sale. CBRE’s Greg Stanton assisted on the transaction.

“They were one of the pioneers in getting the whole Arts District going,” Hillman said.

The neighborhood matured into a bustling hot spot for development, attracting deep-pocketed investorws in recent years to renovate and construct apartments, shops, restaurants, and offices.

“The timing was right for the seller to take advantage of the high pricing in the area,” he said.

The Arts District’s rapid transformation has caused some residents to worry the area is pricing out the artists who first infused it with creative spirit.

Hillman said he didn’t know what DLJ’s plans would be for the building.

DLJ, a private equity real estate investment company based in New York, did not respond to a request for comment.

The firm also owns the Taft office building downtown, the Eastown apartments in Hollywood, and the Thornton Lofts in Venice.

Parkinson designed more than 75 buildings in Los Angeles in the early 1900s, according to the Pacific Coast Architecture Database. His works include the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1921, L.A.’s City Hall (1928), Bullocks Wilshire department store (1929), and Union Station (1939).

Parkinson’s 800 Traction building still bears traces of its industrial past. The name of its first owner, Ben-Hur coffee producer Joannes Brothers Co., is carved into stone across two facades. The other two outer walls still have the name Angeles Desk Co. painted in white letters over a green background for Los Angeles Desk Co., which purchased the site in 1954.

Medical Move-In

A local dermatologist acquired a 5,297-square-foot medical office building in Santa Monica across from St. John’s Health Center last month for $7.2 million, or $1,359 a square foot.

On a square-foot basis, that price tops the recent high marks for the market for larger offices. Douglas Emmett Inc. and Qatar Investment Authority in a joint venture last month acquired 1299 Ocean Ave. and 429 Santa Monica Blvd. for $1,205 a square foot. In November, Oracle Corp. paid $1,165 a square foot for a pair of office buildings on Colorado Avenue.

But the medical office building that just traded is much smaller, which can squeeze up the square-foot price.

R. Sonia Batra looked for more than two years for a small medical building in Santa Monica before landing the deal at 2216 Santa Monica Blvd., according to her agent, Mike Rago of Beitler Commercial. Willa McNamarra Fields assisted on the deal.

Batra plans to move in her Batra Skincare business early next year after completing renovations, Rago said. The company currently occupies a suite at St. John’s Medical Plaza in Santa Monica.

The seller, Held Properties of Century City, purchased the building in 2007 for $4.4 million, or $831 a square foot. The family-owned business was represented on the deal by T.C. Macker of Coldwell Banker Commercial Westmac.

El Segundo Element

A former gym with 30-foot-tall ceilings inside an El Segundo office park is now office space that’s home to Cushman & Wakefield’s newest South Bay outpost. The brokerage relocated to 2141 Rosecrans Ave. from Torrance this month in a move that tripled its office size.

The 12,000-square-foot space, which once housed racquetball courts, resides within Continental Development Corp.’s Continental Park complex and will hold up to 50 employees.

Daina Beth Solomon can be reached at dsolomon@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 556-8337.

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